Oral drops can give children needle-free relief from asthma

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Allergy shots are commonly used to treat children with severe environmental allergies and asthma, but under-the-tongue drops may offer yet another beneficial and stick-free option for paediatric allergy sufferers, scientists at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center have revealed.

This is coming on the heels of another recent Hopkins study, which showed that oral drops provide a safe and effective alternative for adult allergy sufferers.

The new review, published in the May 6, 2013 of the journal Paediatrics, is an analysis of 34 previously published clinical trials and suggests that both drops and injections work well in alleviating the bothersome symptoms of allergic rhinitis and asthma, the research team says. In addition to being better tolerated by needle-averse children, the oral treatment can be given at home, sparing the family a visit to the doctor’s office.

According to the lead author of the review, Julia Kim, a paediatric research fellow at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, findings suggest the needle-free approach is a reasonable way to provide much-needed relief to millions of children who suffer from asthma or seasonal allergies.

Allergy shots, which contain tiny amounts of proteins found in environmental allergens such as dust mites and pollen, are a standard treatment for severe seasonal allergies in children who do not get relief from medication. However, under-the-tongue drops are not approved for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and are only offered off label by some physicians. The needle-free approach is widely available in Europe, where patients are commonly treated with sublingual pills and drops, the researchers say.

The new findings, Kim notes, are encouraging enough to prompt a second look at oral drops as a treatment option.

The Hopkins researchers first looked at 13 studies that involved 920 children and compared the efficacy of allergy injections to either placebo or standard allergy medication. Overall, the researchers found that injections provide better symptom relief than placebo and standard medication for children with asthma or allergic rhinitis.

The team next analyzed 18 trials involving 1,580 children treated with oral-drop therapy, placebo or standard medication for asthma and rhinitis or either condition alone. In this group, the researchers also found that oral drops provided superior relief of asthma symptoms, compared with patients who got the placebo and/or standard drugs.

Oral drops also provided better symptom relief than placebo and standard medication in children with allergic rhinitis or rhino-conjunctivitis, a condition marked by runny nose and itchy, red and swollen eyes

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